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Saudi Arabian GP: Post Race press conference


Track Interviews - Conducted by David Coulthard

Sergio Perez, your fifth win in Formula 1, again keeping this amazing record on street circuits. That was a tough one in the end.
Sergio Perez: Yeah, it turned out to be tougher than expected. That Safety Car... We really did the job in the first stint, but that Safety Car again tried to take the victory out of us, again, in Jeddah, but not this time. I was on for the victory last year, so finally I got it. And the team did a fantastic job. I mean, the job they've done, they've worked so hard during the weekend, you know, we have had a lot of mechanical issues and these guys have been on top of that, so I'm really happy for them and it's time to celebrate.

For a brief moment before the end you were leading the world championship by dint of having the fastest lap but Max pulled that from you at the very end, so you are second in the World Championship, but still a great start to this Championship campaign.
SP: Yeah, exactly. So we will keep pushing. We will keep pushing hard. The important thing, I think, is that we were the fastest car out there today. So I'm very pleased with that.

OK, just one brief mention of the start. You didn't seem to get off the line as clean as Fernando. We know he got a penalty for being slightly out of position but what was going on there?
SP: Yeah, I think there is some work to do, we've changed the procedure a bit from our side, so I think we need to do some work to get better starts in the future.

Well, we can see from the sweat on your brow you worked for that one. Congratulations.
SP: Thank you.

It looks like now we have a third-place finisher. A brilliant start to the 2023 campaign for Fernando Alonso and your 100th podium finish.
Fernando Alonso: What a start to the season. I mean, yeah, probably unthinkable one month ago when we launched the car. But yeah, these guys, they made a fantastic car, fantastic execution of the race in Bahrain, and here as well, with the strategy, and the two podiums.

Now we know you're not so experienced in Formula 1, so you have to talk us through what you did with the position at the start of the race?
FA: Yeah, I need to review obviously. I made that mistake, so yeah, when they told me the five-second penalty I said 'OK, I need to drive a bit faster to make those five seconds' but yeah, I need to review.

You were very, very calm that's for sure. We're seeing the sweat on your brow as well, as your team celebrates your name. This is a hard Grand Prix circuit.
FA: Yeah, it is. It is a hard Grand Prix but yeah, those guys gave me power. Yeah, I pushed all the way through like qualifying laps and yeah, Red Bull is maybe a little bit out of reach but the rest they were behind so happy for that.

And finally, our second place finisher. Still leading the world championship because of that big push at the end there. It has not been an easy weekend for you but you must be satisfied to have come through in second?
Max Verstappen: Yeah, it wasn't very easy to get to the field. I mean through the first sector, trying to follow in the beginning of the race was very difficult, a lot of sliding around. But once I cleared them one by one we got into a good rhythm and of course they are very happy to be here on the podium.

There were some concerns there. We heard you talking about the driveshaft, a vibration. That righted itself or you had that right to the finish?
MV: Yeah, right to the finish but, I mean, I was in second, we had a big gap behind,. so at one point we decided to just, let's say, call it a day and just settle for a second, which I think anyway was a very good recovery you know, so happy with that.

You may have settled for second but you didn't settle for not getting that point for fastest lap.
MV: I gave it a go at the end, so luckily it worked out.

Press Conference

Many congratulations to the top three finishers of the FIA Formula 1 Saudi Arabian Grand Prix. In third place, George Russell. In second place, Max Verstappen. And taking win number five of his career, our winner Sergio Perez. Checo, you described this one as a wicked job over the radio. Of your five wins, where does this one rank?
SP: Well, it's just another word that I learned this week from my engineers.

George Russell: In the UK, when you say wicked, you're meant to do this.

SP: That's something else. Step by step. I think yeah, just in general, it was looking better, the race. You know, once I got past Fernando, I could do my own race. But once again, when that Safety Car came out, it reminded me all over, Jeddah last year again, and it was like, 'not again'. But luckily, we didn't pit. We hadn't pitted at the time. So yeah, it was a new race after the Safety Car, you know. Very early on, Max came back and we were basically, towards the end, just making sure we kept that healthy gap between myself and Max. But that meant we were pushing quite hard and trying to maintain the gap.

Pushing hard and enjoying it or pushing hard and finding it all quite stressful?
SP: No, I did enjoy the race, to be honest. I enjoyed it a lot, especially at the end, just pushing each other with the lap times, knowing that he went a tenth faster, a tenth slower, a tenth faster and it was all pretty intense and then we were told to maintain a certain pace. And I was told again to push them to maintain the pace. So it was just a bit all over the place.

Christian Horner has said since the race that this is your best drive for Red Bull Racing. Would you agree with him?
SP: It's very hard to judge. I mean, the race was strong. It was a strong race, managing it well. I think we did a great job. I don't know if it's my best weekend so far with the team, but I'm sure Melbourne will be even better.

You alluded to it a minute ago, but the only slight hiccup came at the start when Fernando got ahead of you into Turn 1. Can you just talk us through the opening 10 seconds of the Grand Prix?
SP: Yeah, I didn't get a good launch. It's something I need to work with the engineers to make sure we fix that. Fernando just got a better start and we lost the position. But I knew that it was not the end of the world. It's a 50-lap race. It's a pretty long one. And it was more important to manage my tyres at the time. And I mean, just don't get mad and make sure that I was able to do my own race.

Now, of the three Red Bull cars you have raced, is this the one that you're most confident with?
SP: I think at the moment, I'm pretty happy with the car. I had a bit of a scrappy weekend leading up to Qualifying - but I think effectively we managed to have a very good race car. More than Quali, so yeah, at the moment I am feeling very comfortable with the car.

Max coming to you now, what an awesome recovery by you today. Did that play out as you envisioned before the race?
MV: I never really think about it. But yeah, I think realistically with or without the Safety Car, I think P2 was the highest possible. The beginning, the first few laps it was really hard to follow cars because of the street circuit, fast corners, the walls all very close, you get kind-of a tail wind effect. And the car's a bit all over the place. So, after a few laps, it all started to settle in a bit better, and I could pick them off one by one. Then the pace was good. The Safety Car, of course, helped me a bit to get back in the race. But even with that and the restart you just lose too much time to Checo, for example. So, once I got into P2, it was quite a decent gap, let's say like that, on a track where there's not a lot of deg. So I tried to, of course, close the gap a bit. But then, at one point, I picked up again, these vibrations on the driveshaft, on the rear. The team couldn't see anything, but I'm fairly sure there was something odd going on with the balance since the vibration started to kick in. So, at one point, I did the calculations, and I wouldn't have been able to close that gap to the end with only 10 laps left. So, at one point it's, I think, more important to just settle for second: not having an issue with the car.

Can you tell us a little bit more about those vibrations? Were you getting a similar feeling, a similar noise yesterday, just prior to the failure?
MV: Yeah, but of course, then yesterday in qualifying it just went. It snapped. Today, luckily, didn't do that but it started to have a similar effect on the feeling of driving and what you could hear.

Nervous times - but it was still an incredibly fast race car. You were at least one second per lap faster than any other non-Red Bull. How much longer do you think the team can maintain this gap over the field?
MV:I hope for a long time. But it's not only about the pace of the car: we need to make sure we are reliable without any issues. I mean, my first weekend was not very clean, because of just the big balance shift from testing to the race weekend, some other things which are going on in the background. And now again, after three positive practice sessions, where then of course, I have an issue in Qualifying. Of course, I recovered to second, which is good. And of course in general, the whole feeling in the team, everyone is happy but personally, I'm not happy. Because I'm not here to be second, especially when you are working very hard also back at the factory to make sure that you arrive here in a good state, and basically making sure that everything is spot on. And then yeah, you have to do a recovery race, which I like - I mean, I don't mind doing it - but when you're fighting for a Championship and especially, you know, when it looks like it's just between two cars, we have to make sure that also the two cars are reliable.

Check out our Sunday gallery from Jeddah here.


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